Saturday, August 28, 2010

Robbie Williams Shopping at Mina Mall !!

....well, maybe?!

Remember this from a few posts ago (2XL Mina Mall).....


.... well take a look at this from Robbie’s wedding (picture used entirely without the express permission of Hello magazine)......


Well, well well...... Stranger things have happened!

UAE Football League (UFL)

Last night I went to my first UFL game since living here. The only live football I have seen since being here was at the FIFA World Club Cup final between Barcelona and Estudiantes, so this was my first taste of UAE football. 

The biggest club in Abu Dhabi, Al Jazira, have recruited a British CEO - Phil Anderton. He is keen to engage the club more fully with the local population, especially the many many thousands of expat football fans who, like  me, have never been to a local football match. There has been a lot of promotion of the club in the last couple of weeks, with the club offering a free half season pass to the matches. On arrival at the first game this could be exchanged for a free full season pass. So last night, I duly went along to watch Al Jazira vs Al Nasr (Dubai) at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, which has a capacity of 45000 and was one of the FIFA venues for the Club World Cup. The club is owned by HH Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan (who is also owner of Manchester City FC) and HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Zayed Al Nahyan

Although there was only a few thousand people in the stadium, there was a good atmosphere and everyone was enjoying themselves. The standard of football was more Beazer Homes League than Premiership, but nonetheless it was entertaining. Al Jazira won 3-0, with the last goal coming in the final few moments. 

I will definitely go again, although the matches are at some odd times due to the heat. Last night the game kicked off at 10pm and their next home game kicks off at 8am on a Thursday morning - mind you, the next day Al Ain kick off at 05.35! I'd love to see them play Al Ahli, who are now managed by David O'Leary and have Fabio Cannavaro as club captain.

Below is a link to some pictures and video from last night.

Al Jazira vs Al Nasr

Friday, August 27, 2010

Emirati employment

I was reading another blog today which was written by an Emirati working as manager in the banking sector. He was discussing the banks rejection of an Emirati’s application for a gold card. The issue was around his existing debt and not his monthly earnings :-

“The man makes a good living, and he works in a govt entity that is arguably the best place to work in the WORLD. He had just joined 4 months ago, and makes 34K. This is his FIRST job, and once he passes the 6 month mark he will be making around 48K. I know this. Its all right there.”

This just shows how pampered these guys are. So, after 6 months in his first job he will be earning the equivalent of c£100k tax free (the figures quoted are in Dhs per month) and with a job for life. He might not even be any good at his job!

I worry for this country. I don’t know how it will ever truly be run by locals if they are not incentivised to perform or progress and not just given hugh sums of money on a plate for doing even the most trivial job. There is certainly no incentive for Emiratis to work in the private sector when such salaries and job security is available in the public sector. The government’s answer to this seems to be to offer subsidies to those employed in the private sector to bring them up to the level of the government jobs. So then you will have a low grade Emirati employee earning a salary 3 times his boss’s boss’s boss! Like that’s ever gonna be sustainable.....

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Tortured Maid

Follow the link to this story about a Sri Lankan maid who was tortured by her Saudi employers. What kind of sick bastards do this kind of thing. Although this case may be maybe extreme, the mistreatment of maids is not uncommon in the Middle East.

Salam Street Tunnel works

I took a few photos today showing the progress of the tunnel works outside our apartment building. Although there has been no official statement declaring that they will not meet the October deadline (about 6 months later than the first date), it is clear that they will not. Maybe by year end? If not early next year I would guess. It will certainly be a major improvement when it is finished and maybe traffic can flow more freely through the whole city as a result. It is also clearly a major feat of engineering which actually looks like it is being done properly - well done Samsung!

The tunnel taking shape.


Looking down towards The Sheraton.


Concrete top slabs being put in place to create the tunnel roof.


A fully covered section.


Looking down between the slabs.


Pimped BMW

I once read that by volume the Middle East is not the biggest market for Mercedes/BMW etc, but it is for some the biggest by value. This is because of the high proportion of customers who buy top of the range, fully loaded with extras and many also with customised interior/exterior.

Here’s an example I saw the other day. Custom paint jobs are two-a-penny here, especially matt finishes which are popular.


Health and Safety gone bad

I know we moan a lot about H&S in the UK. Rules and regulations are stifling many aspects of day to day life. Here, it’s not a problem, but just a little thought for H&S would be nice!

Here is an ADNOC pump attendant filling a used plastic oil container with diesel.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010


There are two main Eid festivals in the muslim calendar, the first follows Ramadan and is called Eid al Fitr and the second is Eid al Adha which is celebrated approximately 70 days after the end of Ramadan.

For Eid al Fitr we have decided to travel to Syria. We will stay for two nights in Damascus. Many people have told us it is a very interesting place to visit and it is also very cheap when you get there. We will stay in the old city in a traditional looking hotel. Most of the old city attractions are within walking distance - which is good because no cars can drive in the old city!

Traveling to Damascus requires a visit visa, unless you are from one of the listed Arab countries. The service at the Syrian Embassy was very efficient. I took all the necessary paperwork one day and the visa were ready for collection at 10am the next. Shows how it can be done!

So watch this space later for some , hopefully, nice photos from Damascus.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

2XL funiture

2XL is a furniture store chain here in the UAE - the name makes it sound as though it’s for very very large people; that maybe so in some cases, but I would say it’s more for pimps. Amongst the garish items there were some nice things, but there were also lots of things that would look best in Austin Powers’ house! I wish I had taken more photos, maybe I will another time. I did take a couple though on my phone.

Firstly, the largest and most ridiculous lamp stand I have seen in my life! ....


And second, Austin Powers’ chandelier ...


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Maghrib Prayer Call

On way way home from work in Dubai today I needed to stop for petrol. All petrol stations in Abu Dhabi are operated by ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company). I wasn’t taking much notice of what time it was, but as I pulled onto the ADNOC forecourt the prayer call for the Maghrib prayer went up. In Ramadan this is particularly significant as it marks the time when the day’s fast may be broken (it was around 7pm). Because of the changing daylight hours this call will move forward as the month proceeds and will be nearer 6.30 pm by the end of the month.

I did feel guilty, as the forecourt attendants were trying to drink their water to break fast as well as serve customers. I did give mine a good tip though. As I was sat in my car I was presented with the little package below......



The contents: water, dates and a cleaning wipe. Dates are the traditional way to break fast, as they have such a high sugar content they provide the necessary “kick” , with water or milk.

These are given out partly as a gift of the season, but also as a practical way of drivers breaking fast while they are traveling, before they reach their destination for Iftar (meal after Maghrib prayer in Ramadan). Trust me, when you see drivers on the motorway who have not eaten, drank or smoked all day - you want them to have something ASAP !

Saturday, August 14, 2010

You heard it here first!

Today we went for lunch at Le Meridien Hotel. Most of the hotels still have restaurants and coffee shops open during Ramadan, so we went there to their coffee shop. A group of three men arrived after us and sat at the next table - 1 British bloke and 2 Indian guys. They started going over plans and layouts for what transpired to be a new night club, we think at Capital Hotel. Now, the Capital Hotel has a somewhat dubious reputation for hosting some of the many ladies of the night to be found in various venues in the city. Caroline once went to one of the clubs there, Rock Bottom, on a work do - and apparently, it is!

Judging by the conversation we heard, this one will be no better. The British guy was an arse; arrogant, an undercurrent of racism and just generally came across as unpleasant. It made us sorry to be associated by country of origin. He was talking through how many staff he would need and in what roles. It would be mainly staffed by Filipinos who he was going on a trip next to recruit. Waitresses are to be offered 1500 Dhs a month (c.£260), they would need 6; 5 girls and one man “because you need to have something for the ladies” ! He would need a hostess at the door, a model who wouldn’t work for less than 2000 Dhs. The toilet attendant wouldn’t need a salary, they would just work for tips - “you’d be surprised how much they can earn” ! The main requirement for security on the door was not that they should be well trained etc etc, but that “he must wear a jacket” - this was repeated about 20 times!. The chef would only need to be a short order chef as he will only be cooking 8 items; fries, chicken wings etc. It seems he was only recruiting enough staff for 1 person on each role, therefore I guess these poor souls will be working 7 nights a week, with no cover for sickness etc.

Now - the pièce de résitance was that joining the hostess at the door will be ..... wait for it....... midgets ! I thought I had mis-heard him at first, but no, he said midgets. They would be a main attraction for the club - “people will come just to see the midgets” ! He had to explain to the Indian guys what he meant by midgets and I don’t think they quite got it. But they must be male midgets, “because girl midgets look weird and ugly, whereas boy midgets are better looking” !

They want to open the end of September - I think we may have to go just for the craic !

LuLu's treats

This weeks excitement from LuLu’s as below:-


Our favourite lollies from the UK! Not at our favourite £3 though - 27.50 Dhs I think, which is nearly a fiver. Still..... we just had to have them!

Thursday, August 12, 2010


While on holiday last week, I couldn’t be bothered to shave. At the end of the week I thought I might keep some of it! Well, I’m living among Arabs, so I thought it appropriate

You can let me know what you think by voting !

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ramadan from tomorrow

The new moon has been spotted by the Moon Sighting Committee in the Western Region of Abu Dhabi and therefore Ramadan has been declared as starting from tomorrow.

So basically, no eating, drinking, smoking, dancing or playing loud music during daylight hours for a month. It’s unlikely you will be arrested for any of this, unless you are being really inconsiderate and a complaint was made to the police, but mostly you would just get very dirty looks. Really, you just need to be considerate of those around you that are fasting and respect what is for them a very holy time.

Time Out Abu Dhabi has a good summary of what Ramadan is all about.

Ramadan Kareem to my Muslim readers!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Back in Abu Dhabi

We had a great week back home. It was good to see all our kids and we managed to have a BBQ/Pool party one day for all our family and some friends without any rain falling!

Now back in the sweat box!

Here’s a few pictures I took of the cottage and surrounding location..... (more in a web album - link at the bottom of the page)










Holiday in Saffron Walden